Headlines - Reflections 10-1-20

Texts for Sunday October 4, 2020
18th Sunday after Pentecost 

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:7-15
Philippians 3:4b-14
Matthew 21:33-46

Headline: Dozens of homes, Napa Valley landmarks, vineyards destroyed

California is burning again. So many people have lost so much. Whether the losses are from a derecho or flash flooding or hurricanes or drought, people try to embrace thoughts like “Well, it was only stuff. You can replace stuff.” And, yet… there is unmistakable loss and grief.

Headline: Temperatures  Rising in the Gulf of Maine

We, as a species, need to pay attention to the signs of climate change – like California burning - and start changing our lives. Transformations of our living styles and way of life will not be easy or comfortable for many of us. We will have to give things up. We will grieve. Hopefully we are not too late and our actions will mean that our planet will remain habitable and people in the future can have meaningful lives.

Headline: World hits 1 million deaths from COVID19.

The pandemic has brought so much grief and pain: loss of life and loved ones, exhaustion of medical workers, loss of employment and financial security, the loss of conversations and physical touch through our networks of relationships. The depth of loss is beyond perception.

Too many recent Headlines: Black Lives Matter protest the violent death of (insert name).

I am frustrated and angry, shocked and horrified, by how many of those headlines have continued to appear since George Floyd’s agonizing death. Our brothers and sisters of color have endured this for centuries. So many deaths, so many losses, so many injustices.

Headline: White people start to wake up

I’ve really been trying to take note of how structural and systemic racism exists in my life. So much of my life story and daily living, my opportunities and experiences are based on being white. I need to lose an outdated framework in which I have been privileged, protected, and prioritized within a system of racism. That is hard work; loss of lifelong paradigms and perceptions of history and daily life is heavy. Hopefully the loss will eventually lead to transformation.

Headline: So, what’s with all this stuff about loss, Pam?

All of the readings for this week struggle with loss. Symbolically, the readings describe losses of identity for a community of faith, or a loss of meaning for individuals. In the gospel, that meaning includes a loss of power and control. And, sadly, as Napa Valley vineyards burn, three of today’s readings use the symbol of destruction in a vineyard to illustrate loss. Unfortunate timing. Or maybe not.

Paul comes along with a different view. As people today experience unprecedented losses of impermanent things through disaster and disease, Paul declares those losses to be rubbish in comparison of knowing Christ. Is that what we should do with this collection of texts? Believe me, I am more than happy to skip over all the loss stuff and move directly to the “hope in Christ” part, but sometimes that just feels hollow and doesn’t reach that empty place inside.

In the midst of our present reality, I suspect that these combined texts confront us in our desire to move on too quickly: We need a place to embrace and experience the grief of our loss. Psalm 80 is a song of communal lament. It claims that space for grief – so much has been and is still being lost. But laments ,by explicit or implicit means, carry a strong word of trust in God’s mercy. Let your face shine upon us. Together the texts this week allow us to carry our losses and grief even as they turn us toward hope and God’s grace for us.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


Gathered by Grace, Scattered for Service
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